Sunday, December 31, 2006

Hughes a Pretty Boy Then!

Charlton Athletic 2
Aston Villa 1

That's more like it! After the despair of a last minute equaliser last Wednesday, Charlton returned the injury-time favour to Villa and claimed all three points with another late, late, goal.

Substitute Bryan Hughes was the hero, with his first league goal for some time, diving to head home Hermann Hreidersson's knock back across goal (above left).

It was no more than Charlton deserved, having hit the bar twice - a drive from Ambrose in the first half, and a Traore header in the second - and being denied when Hreidersson followed up the Traore header with the ball apppearing to have crossed the line.

Rommadahl may also have broken his Valley duck had Gareth Barry not hauled him down just outside the penalty area, resulting in a red card for the Villa captain.

It was not all plain sailing though, and Agbonlahor could have scored late on for Villa when he poked the ball past Carson and just wide.

Darren Bent (left) had equalised for Charlton early in the second half, heading home El Karkouri's 55 yard pass, that after Barry had scored from a first half penalty when Hreidersson was adjudged to have tripped McCann.

The passion and commitment that returned in the Fulham game was maintained, but Villa were a harder nut to crack. The side that Pardew sent out saw just one change from Wednesday's starting eleven (Rommedahl starting for Thomas, who moved down to sub), indicating his commitment to a 4-4-2 formation, and a reliance on those who performed well in midweek.

Kishishev found it harder to find space for his two touches though, and Holland seemed to come to the rescue many times with last ditch midfield challenges. It is so different to the Faye days...

The crowd were great once more, making an excellent atmosphere, and transferring some belief back into the players minds. The message is now going out - if Charlton are to be relegated, then they will go with a fight. All of a sudden, Alan Curbishley's honeymoon at West Ham is over, and they are in sight at just two points ahead now. 17th place Middlesboro are the next target, and the match aginst them in a couple of weeks will be a crucial game for both sides. A win there could bring them into range too and see a great turnaround on the cards very quickly. Then it will be a case of maintaining the run.

Before then, an away match at Arsenal - where nobody really expects anything but a defeat, even after the Gunners loss at Sheffield United - and a cup game at Forest - which with the Pardew resurgence is now winnable.

Hope has returned to the club; if Pardew can bring in some battlers during the January transfer window - China captain Zheng Zhi the first of a new bunch - and gewt rid of some of the lazy money-grabbers then we really can look forward to a good 2007, and forget the horrors of 2006, our Annus Horribilus.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Villa next for Pardew

Just a quickie about the next Charlton game at The Valley tomorrow lunchtime, where Alan Pardew goes in search of his first win as Charlton boss.

This is the side I think he will start, providing there are no injuries lurking from the Fulham game (other than the doubtful Thomas) -

Scott Carson
Osei Sankofa
Talal El Karkouri
Hermann Hreidersson
Djimi Traore
Radostin Kishishev
Matt Holland
Darren Ambrose
Dennis Rommedahl
Marcus Bent
Darren Bent

Subs will be from Myrhe, Ashton, Fortune, Diawara, Hughes, Sam, and Hasselbaink.

My one to watch is going to be Darren Bent - hopefully revitalised after breaking his scoring drought on Wednesday night, let's hope Dazza continues to hit the back of the net consistently through the rest of the season.

Pedro45's score forecast is a 1-1 draw - Villa are tough nuts to crack, and have a good young side. They aren't in the best of form though, and if Charlton can compete (as they did on Wednesday) then a point shoud be won.

Up the Addicks!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Darren's Double Dealt Despair

Charlton Athletic 2 Fulham 2

Cruel. So cruel.

This really is a season that Charlton fans will remember for all the wrong reasons. Leading 2-1 into second half injury time, a poor decision by the linesman gave Fulham another chance to lob the ball into the Charlton box, and it kindly fell to Quedrue to lash home the equaliser. Heartbreak for Charlton; heartbreak for Alan Pardew in his first game in charge.

Pards first team sheet had a number of changes, and he ran with the 4-4-2 formation. Marcus Bent joined namesake Darren up front; Kishishev and Holland provided an engine room full of running; Thomas and Ambrose provided the width; and the defence had Sankofa, El Karkouri, Hreidersson, and Traore. Carson remained in goal. The subs bench was all about experience - no Lloyd Sam - with Hughes, Hasselbaink, Fortune, and Rommedahl given the nod.

This looked like a revitalised Charlton team. Early exchanges showed the passion as bodies flew into tackles. The effort, missing recently, was back in abundance. OK, the flair was still not apparent, but you couldn't fail to see the new commitment being shown.

This was embodied by Marcus Bent's contribution. It was, in my opinion, his best ever game for the club. He ran, harried, competed, and was obviously trying to inpress the new manager - all of which he has failed to do regularly in the year or so he has been at the club.

Alongside him, Darren Bent seemed to find new life too; he chased and chased, made tackles, and wore his captain's armband with the pride we fans demand.

It was Fulham who scored first though - another free kick given away by Ambrose was met by a thumping header from Bocanegra that hit the bar (tipped onto by Carson?); McBride was first to the rebound and he swept it home first time.

The lead was short lived, as a high ball into the six yard box was weakly punched by Niemi under pressure (other refs would have given a foul...) and Darren Ambrose half-volleyed in to the net off the post from twelve yards. It was all Charlton deserved. The crowd were bouyed, and became increasingly noisy. It was just like the old days!

Just before half time, Darren Bent chased a back flick by a Fulham defender and as two others left it for each other, he nipped in to stroke the ball into the net past the static Niemi. Charlton led, and it was the first time in ages that they had scored twice in a game.

The crowd were just as good in the second half, a tight close affair. Both teams had chances, but Charlton's seemed to be better. It was the final ball that let them down on most occasions. Rommedahl, on at half time for Thomas, broke free several times down the right. Lacking confidence, he didn't always make the right choice or play the right pass. He had chances to shoot, but crossed - Hasselbaink missing a sitter - and the score stayed the same. Ambrose also missed a great chance after Marcus Bent stepped over a pull back by Darren Bent (another sign of low confidence when a first time shot may have been more productive), when he cut inside then curled the shot just wide.

Hughes came on for Ambrose to tighten things up defensively, but he failed to get involved, and when he did he just seemed to give the ball away continuously.

Hasselbaink arrived for the last ten minutes in place of the workhorse Marcus Bent. After that, posession became harder to hold onto, and more pressure resulted. In the end, it told, with that late equaliser.

It was a tough ending for a passionate crowd, but they must see the effect that Pardew has had in just a few days. It's easy to blame the ref, or linesman, for the loss of the two points, especially if it does make a difference at the end of the season. But fans should now realise that the team gave their all, and we cannot win every week, and were without luck.

The first signing of the Pardew era seems to be on the cards with Stephen Pressley watching last night and keen to join the club as a free agent. Pressley famously fell out with his previous club (Hearts) after criticising the Lithuanian owner, and was released from his contract a couple of months back. A Scottish International centre back, he will bring leadership to the club, but may lack pace? It will be interesting to see who he is earmarked to replace, as Hreidersson and El Karkouri are incumbent, and Sorondo, Gibbs, Diawara, and Fortune all (when fit) currently compete for the two available positions.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I Had a Dream...

I had a dream,
I'm sure not the only one,
That in Pard's first game
We won four to none.

I had a dream,
Most Addicks probably hope the same,
That Pard's arrival
Signals a glorious reign.

I had a dream,
That same as many Charlton fans,
That this new manager
Has us celebrating in the stands.

I had a dream,
It just has to be true,
That Pardew, Robson, and Kinsella
Are the dream ticket new.

Come on you reds!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Pedro45's Xmas Message

We've had the turkey; now for the stuffing. Here are Pedro45's messages to a few people with Charlton connections, however tenuous...

Richard Murray
Boss-man; have a good one. You probably won't have time to enjoy much in this season of goodwill. Keep making the right decisions, but try to miss out on the bad ones. Hopefully you can look forward to enjoying a long a fruitful partenership with another manager, as you did with Curbs.

Alan Pardew
Welcome back to Charlton; may this stay be at least as long as your last. If you do another 202 games, most fans will be very happy! Be hard in 2007, because that is the only way to make this club better. You know how the club is run (it hasn't changed that much since you were last playing here), so get it back to the level we, the fans, expect - well run, a model for other clubs, something that others aspire to. With that, will come respect and adulation.

Les Reed
Have a Happy Xmas Les. If you don't try, you will never know - You did, and now you and the whole British football public do know. Keep selling the training sheets.

Derek Hales
Killer - I hope you can get your predictions back into the black. You bet on Charlton nearly every match and you are losing close to thousands at the moment; If Pards can turn the tables, you will hopefully make some money for charity! If not, don't worry, we have 168 reasons to be cheerful connected with your name.

Darren Bent
Happy Xmas Dazza. May your presents include a new pair of boots the enable you to reclaim the scoring touch, and the desire to stick the ball in the back of the opposition net. A call from McLaren promising a few more caps wouldn't go amiss either, and that will restore your confidence.

Steve Jones
Jones-y has fallen on some hard times, and is selling some football memorabilia on E-bay. I hope you make some dosh, and don't spunk it on the 2.30 at Wincanton. I'm not going to plug it on here, because I just might want to bid for it and don't want to push the price up too high!

Djimi Traore, Amady Faye, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
May all your Xmas wishes come true, and you get the transfer to the club of your choice - clubs where they don't mind if you fail to try, fail to make an effort, fail to wear the shirt with pride, fail to compete, fail to do anything that justifies your salary. Unless you change your attitude, we don't want or need you at The Valley.

New York Addict, Frankie Valley, Inspector Sands, and all other Charlton Bloggers and fans from Chicago, Madrid, Iberia, Holland, Leamington, Thailand, Indonesia, Canada, Scotland, and everywhere
Keep up the good work lads (and lasses); it's great fun being part of the blogging community, reading other opinions, hearing comments, and comparing notes. May you get thousands of hits in 2007!

Marcus Bent, Bryan Hughes, Dennis Rommedahl
Guys, you have tried your best for the club, but remember, if you get the opportunity to play elsewhere, you should take it. The club needs the funds to buy new players, so please leave if a decent offer comes in for you so Charlton can progress. That is what you want isn't it?

Andrew Mills
I don't know you; you don't know me. In fact, not many Addick fans do know who you are, or what you do at Charlton! What we want now is a whole bunch of good deals that show the club and it's fans how good you are at your job; if you mess up in January, there is nowhere else to go and you will never work in football again.

Mark Kinsella
Kins, I hope you enjoy working with Pards; we need your passion, his scoring touch, and both of your bite in the middle of the park. It is blatantly missing at present.

Charlton supporters the World over
Here's to a successful Xmas period for you all, which hopefully the club will reciprocate on the park. Next year cannot be worse than this, so we can only look forwards.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Where There's Hope!

Middlesboro 2 Charlton Athletic 0

I couldn't take this game - I drove down to my parents house in Dorset, and only turned on the TV at 4.40; ten minutes to go and Charlton were once again losing - 2-0 down to Boro. The final score was the same, and I watched as Les Reed gave a post-match interview. It was sad. He had played six defenders apparently. I haven't bothered looking to see who played; I haven't checked a website or read a paper. It was only from the end-of-game pictures from the Riverside that I know El Karkouri, Hreidersson, and Hughes played.

Reed went on to explain that the first goal was a result of the midfield losing the ball when moving forward, and the second, as a result of nobody closing down the scorer on the edge of the area. I didn't watch Match of the Day, so I don't know how accurate a reflection that is, but we fans can remember many similar goals so far this season.

At my fiance's parents house today, we didn't talk football - too depressing I said.

Tonight, we went to the local Somerset village candlelight carol service. I am not religious at all, and I have difficulty singing all those words that have God, Heaven, Lord, etc within, but it did get me thinking a lot. Once in Royal David's City; O Little Town of Bethlehem; Away in a Manger; Hark the Herald Angel Sing; Silent Night, those sort of carols...

One hymne had lots of messages about hope - I think it was O Come, All Ye Faithful.

My mind drifted to football thoughts. Maybe we should have hope where there is apparently none. I know that seems tough to understand, but as Charlton fans, we can only do that at any stage going into any game or season, now or at any point. We hope that we will win; we hope to have a good season. Without hope, we are lost.

Strangely, my phone vibrated at about 7.30, five minutes or so before the end of the carol service. I didn't bother looking immediately as it would have been rude in church and all that. We left at the end and walked to a house for a pre-Xmas drinks party; I checked my phone.

Was this a message from above? No; my only two icons are Derek Hales and Ian Botham.

But it was a text from Charlton -

Where there is hope...

The King is Dead; Long Live the King!

Les has gone; Pards has arrived.

Will he be the Saviour? I don't know. Many fellow bloggers have been calling for him to be brought in. They now have their Xmas present all wrapped up for them and delivered a day early.

I've backed Reed all the way, but recently it has been tough to watch. Is it all Reed's fault, or should the players take much of the blame? If Pardew has any nouse, he will still get rid of Traore, Faye, Hughes and Hasselbaink in the next couple of weeks, because if they wouldn't or couldn't play for Reed or Dowie, they ain't gonna do anything different for Pards.

I wish Les Reed well; he may be very upset at the moment, but the decision for him to go is in the best interests of the club and has now been made.

Welcome Alan Pardew; I don't know how this season will now turn out but at least we cannot blame the Board for not trying to make the most of it. I hope it works; we really are in desperate straights.

Alan Pardew - welcome to the bottom of the league. The only way is up!

Friday, December 22, 2006

All I want for Xmas...

I really am too lethargic to write a preview of the Boro game - it may be Xmas lunches, or maybe something as a result of Tuesday night's game (?).

Who will play? Eleven will pull on the Charlton shirt, but none can guarantee a performance - passion, effort, endeavour, skill - it seems. Five will be subs and they will warm up, and try to put things right when (probably) it all goes pear shaped.

My one-to-watch is switching from the pitch to the stands - every single Charlton fan who travels gets my heartfelt thanks and good wishes for Xmas. I hope the result doesn't spoil your good tidings, as it may mine. I also think we should be watching the directors box too - a lot of silence preceded the recent statements about team building, who is to blame for signings, etc. I know you guys are as depressed as the rest of us, but at least you are hands-on and can try to put things right?

Pedro45's score prediction is...I haven't a clue. In years gone by I may have thought we could bounce back and win - we have done it before. But this is a very different Charlton to what we have been used to recently, so I don't know if we can win. Boro are also desperate for the points and see this as a must win game themselves. They will not lie down, even if the crowd is quite and sparse at the Riverside just before Xmas. Sadly, I think we may lose this one too - hope seems lost; maybe 2-1 (if we have a good/better day?

I'd like to sign off positively but cannot - up the Addicks and all that.

Please Santa - forget anything material. Just give me a result for a change!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Darren Bent and The January Transfer Window

It's now common knowledge that Charlton will be attempting to turn their season around by making signings in the January transfer window. Richard Murray, Peter Varney, and Les Reed have all been quoted as saying that there is some wheeling and dealing to do, and money will be made available. The big question though, is -
Should Charlton sell Darren Bent?

In my opinion, the absolute answer is NO!

There are two real scenarios -

1. Sell Bent for whatever we can get for him (maybe up to £10m?) and spend this money on replacements that may be able to get us out of the predicament that we are in, or
2. Sell Dazza after the end of the season if (when?) we have been relegated to offset the loss of revenue from being in The Championship.

The problem I foresee with the first option is that should Dazza go, and we get, say, £10m, and we spend all of that money (with no reason not to...) on three or four new players, then those players would be like a mill-stone around Charlton's necks come end of season if we still go down. The transfer fees we would have paid for them would have been inflated (as the selling clubs would know we had a big cheque burning a hole in our pocket), and if we could then sell them at season end (no guarantee), we would definitely be making a loss on what we paid. I don't think Charlton can afford to do that if they are relegated. We would also have the problem of paying three/four (£20k?) salaries instead of Dazza's reputed £25k a week.

In my opinion, we should keep hold of Dazza for as long as we possibly can; he may be playing rubbish at the moment (as is the rest of the team) but he is one of our better young players, and one who could possibly get us out of trouble if we can start to get the ball in to him in the right positions.

Only at season end, if relegated, would I then countenance him being sold. I don't see it as taken that his selling fee then would be lower then than in January either. With Manchester United, Aston Villa, Portsmouth, West Ham, Spurs, Arsenal, and others all reputed to be intersted in signing him, a summer bidding war could actually end up with Charlton making a financial killing on the player.

Hopefully, we will survive in the Premiership this season, and any thought of selling Bent will recede, although I'm sure we will get plenty of offers in the summer anyway, whatever happens.

Whatever the outcome, we need to support Little Benty over the next few games, as he is one of our few chances of getting out of this mess.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Easter Spoils Addicks Christmas

Charlton Athletic 0
Wycombe Wanderers 1

Where to start? I haven't read a paper, or another blog - I'm too sad, depressed, upset, angry, annoyed...

This was abysmal. An utterly abject performance from the home team. It is one thing to be outclssed by a resurgent Liverpool side, as we were at the weekend, but to be outplayed by a team from League 2 is beyond belief.

It was dire. A bright opening five minutes was followed by 85 minutes of utter crap. They were all pretty useless, but let's look in more depth, starting up front.

The three forwards
Darren Bent
Low on confidence; without a goal in eight games now. He tries desperately hard sometimes, but runs down too many blind alleyways, and just doesn't get hit with a pass often enough. With the rest too scared to hit the early ball when he makes his runs, Dazza is not really worth tuppence at the moment, let alone £10 million!

Marcus Bent
Big Benty usually wins the first header of the evening, and then very little else. How a player of his supposed class can be beaten in the air time after time by second rate defenders is unbelievable. His touch is poor; he does not link play well; he is lazy too. OK, he got injured during the game, and tried to battle on but delivered absolutely zero to the teams overall play.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Amazingly, Jimmy was one of the bright spots on this awful night. Tried to link up the midfield and forwards, and got involved. If only he could do that for more than twenty minutes against lower league opposition.

The three wingers
Jerome Thomas
A wrong move to bring Jerome back without any preparation work. He lacked pace; confidence; and effort. Not once did he beat his marker; not once did he get a cross into the box. Useless, big-time Charlie.

Dennis Rommedahl
If only Dennis could do the good stuff and cut out the bad. We can put up with wingers who don't tackle (Colin Powell anyone?), but not one who gives up and bottles out. He is dangerous when he has the ball; did beat his full back; and did put over some decent crosses especially in the second half. Needs to do this more and more but may be near the end of his Charlton career.

Lloyd Sam
It's a shame that Lloyd didn't start the game. At least he hasn't yet been contaminated by some of his team-mates antics. A breath of fresh air, he looked good toward the end, when finally brought on for Thomas. Possibly the future of the club?

The three midfeild players
Bryan Hughes
The Bryan Hughes we know and love was on show last night - outclassed by a hard working midfield who gave him no time or space, Hughes really should be playing against teams like Wycombe every week, because that is his level. Reed brought him back and he did play well against Blackburn, but now he is back to his normal game-plan, and that just isn't anywhere near good enough to play in the Premiership for Charlton.

Amady Faye
If our Amady had a virus on Saturday, how come he had recovered so quickly in order to play last night? He was utter garbage. A complete waste of space. All those who digged out Kishishev last year now know what the real option looks like, and it isn't a pretty site. He can't pass; he has poor positional sense; he charges forward or wide chasing the ball leaving the defence wide open. His shooting - let's not forget he has never scored a goal in the English game - is woeful.

Matt Holland
Matt tried when he came on, and at least provided some movement in the middle of the park. Moved to right back when Reed finally twigged we might lose and shifted Fortune up front. One of the better ones, but that isn't saying much...

The three defenders
Osei Sankofa
Luke Young's replacement did OK defensively, but was poor going forward. His link up play with Rommedahl was embarassing. Sacrificed in an effort to equalise. Will he be in the team for the next six weeks while Young recovers? Maybe, but is he good enough cover?

Souleymane Diawara
At least we know our French-speaking Senegalese defender has balls - he got the ball right where it hurts from a Wycombe shot, though how the ref gave handball for it I don't know! Competed well, but his passing was poor, in that he tried to give the ball to others who were under pressure, and not good enough to cope. Was the one marking Easter when he scored, but had little chance to stop him after a good flick on.

Jonathan Fortune
Big John tried, and coped OK in the air; didn't mark closely enough though and allowed forwards to turn. Not Premiership class, but maybe could still hack it in the lower leagues.

The goalkeeper
Scott Carson
Carson saved a few shots early on, but then seemed to get annoyed and let in a savable shot from Easter. If he had worked his angles better, he should have had it covered in my opinion. He will certainly have a few stories to tell from his time at The Valley, and the lack of defence in front of him. Don't be surprised if he asks to go back to Anfield in January!

So there you have it - a bunch of rubbish footballers, who are paid large sums of (our) money to entertain us, and win the odd game.

Ooops, I forgot someone...didn't I?

Who was playing the left back position?

I remember my first game at The Valley - Brian Kinsey was left back, and he was quite good. After him, I watched Dietmar Bruck, Ray Tumbridge, Phil Warman, Kevin Dickenson, Phil Ferns, Mark Reid, Paul Mortimer, Scott Minto, Anthony Barness, Mark Bowen, Chris Powell, Paul Konchesky, Hermann Hreidersson, and probably a few more whose names I can't really remember play left full back.

Last night, I think I saw the worst display from any player I have ever seen who purported to be playing left back. Djimi Traore take a bow! You are an utter disgrace, and are quite simply not fit to wear a Charlton shirt ever again. You may have a Champions League winners medal, but deep down, you know you are a loser, and a waste of space. You are a joke. Get out of this club, and don't ever come back!

I feel sorry for Les Reed; he picked that team, and they completely let him, the club, and the fans, down. It was sad to see him booed when he caught the ball during the second half.

This season has seen a number of lows. Each time we think we have got to the bottom rung, and yet, and yet, we still (!), seem to be sinking lower and lower.

I can take relegation. I can take not being in the Premiership. What I cannot take is Charlton without heart; without fight; without effort; without pride...

...and that's what we have at the moment.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ex-Addicks Line up for Non-Existent Job

Alan Pardew isn't the only manager with Ex-Charlton credentiials to get the sack this last week - today, St Andrews 1987 hero Peter Shirtliff got the bullet from Mansfield Town.

It is unknown at present if calls will be made by fan groups for him to replace Les Reed.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Quarter of Hope is Better than None

You know when you were younger, and maybe not so young, it was always a dream to be a player, and if you couldn't be a player, you wanted to be the manager; pick the team, decide tactics and all that. Well, who amongst us nowadays would want to be in Les Reed's shoes? OK, maybe Alan Pardew, but who amongst us? Not many I bet!

Down amongst the dead men at the base of the Premiership, life certainly ain't easy. All those jokers who applied for the managers job when Curbs left are probably now grateful that they didn't quite get past the polite no thank you letter stage. How would they like to be the one trying to explain another abysmal display by a bunch of footballers who wear our beloved shirts? How would they like to be the one that is slagged off on blogs and forums and message boards every other day? How would they like to be the one that every office in every part of the land is saying can't hack it?

Not me. And not you I expect.

Les Reed is the man in the hot seat, and it looks like he will be there for quite some time. The Board have done a fabulous job at Charlton, and we have to back their every decision - even on who is going to run the playing side of the club. OK, not every decision I suppose; when John Fryer decided to move the club to Croydon, we all got up and acted. It may have taken a few years to resolve, but we acted. And we got our club back to SE7. That's where this Board took over, and built and built the club. It wasn't overnight, but every season, we became better and bigger as a club. When results didn't go right, we knew that the new stand (East, West, North)was making it better for next season. When we slipped out of the Premiership the first time round, we knew that as long as the squad could be maintained, we would be back. The club grew.

After a few seasons in the Premiership, the onfield options became tougher, but the club was still growing, and it is now. Valley Express is important to the future. The plans for the corners of the ground and second tier of the east stand equally so.

We need to go on, and hopefully in the Premiership too. But that is the tough part.

Tuesday night sees a welcome diversion, but another chance to take the club forward. Charlton have never been in a League Cup quarter final before, and have as good a chance as they ever will of getting even further.

Wycombe are the visitors to The Valley, and I guess they will be underdogs. Deep down, though, they will feel it is a game they can win too, so Charlton need to be on their guard.

With injuries leading up to the busy Xmas period, Charlton will be dredging up anyone who is "fit" enough to play - no option to play a weakened team; we are pretty weak with our first team playing!

This is the side I think Les may give a run out tomorrow -

Scott Carson
Talal El Karkouri
Souleymane Diawara
Hermann Hreidersson
Nathan Ashton
Matt Holland
Bryan Hughes
Dennis Rommedahl
Darren Ambrose
Marcus Bent
Darren Bent

Subs from Myrhe, Sankofa, Faye and Kishishev (if better), Sam, Hasselbaink.

My one to watch is going to be Souleymane Diawara. Souley is becoming a bit of a favourite, even though he is prone to the odd mistake, especially against teams that play lots of high balls, which Wycombe may well do. Hopefully though, he can cope and show us that December weather can be coped with as long as he wears gloves!

Pedro45 has to be positive about the game this midweek - I forecast a 2-0 win. It may not be pretty; it may not be slick; but I think we will have a little too much for the lower league team.

The atmosphere, with several thousand Wanderers fans coming along, should be good. Charlton fans have generally stood behind the team over recent times, and made plenty of noise. Tomorrow night may be a step into the unknown, but it should be a very nice place to be; A place where anyone in charge of a football team wants to be - even Les, me or you.

Come on you reds!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Simply Despair

Charlton Athletic 0
Liverpool 3

This is going to be a tough season - the media are on our backs; Match of The Day think we are rubbish; no one seems to care about Charlton anymore. It is arguable if the players do too.

Without heart, without hope, where do Charlton go from here?

Let's face it - we fans really didn't expect much from this game, and that's exactly what we got - zero! From the moment that Traore lunged forward with his leg at head height in Pennant's direction, blood was on Pennant's face , and the writing was on the wall. I'm not sure what Thomas Myrhe was trying to do with the resultant penalty kick, but a drive straight down the middle was enough to beat him.

Over the next twenty minutes or so, Liverpool could have wracked up half a dozen more - Traore atoned by clearing off the line (above), and Kuyt and Bellamy missed when very well placed. It was very one way.

The midfield offered no protection at all to the back line, and were guilty of regularly giving the ball away and increasing the pressure. Faye was abysmal, and it was an error in hindsight to play him if he was suffering from a virus. Holland ran around but couldn't get involved. Reid was wide and passed well, but didn't see enough of the ball. Rommedahl tried, but again, he had little quality to do anything with.

Up front, Darren Bent was shackled, and Hasselbaink was just so slow he looked ponderous. If he put as much effort into playing the game as he did moaning at team-mates, he would be fantastic!

The defence tried to cope, but failed without support, and the passing from El Karkouri was attrocious - just lump it forward and start all over again...

It didn't help that Reid went off injured at half time, and Faye and Young didn't last much longer before also being withdrawn with injury.

The only chances of note fell to Hreidersson in the first half, when he volleyed over an open goal after Reid's shot had been turned aside; and to Ambrose (on for Reid), who did the same after a great cross from Rommedahl found him at the back post. The two other subs - Hughes and Diawara failed to make too much difference to proceedings.

Liverpool just continued to squander chances, with Kuyt coming closest when hitting the post, until late on Bellamy's offside run failed to wake the linesman from his slumber and he swung the ball home.

One of Steven Gerrard's privileges after being given the Freedom of the borough of Knowsley is that he is allowed to drive his sheep down the main street of his home town. Sadly, two minutes from time he was given the freedom on the edge of the penalty area to look up, and curl a delightful ball into the top corner of the Charlton net.

Three nil - it could have been thirteen!

This is about as low as it gets for Charlton; the expectation and grim reality is that the team now need a minimum of four points from the next two games - away at Boro and at home to Fulham after Xmas. There is a real possibility that we could be bottom on Xmas day, and you know what they say when that happens - there is no way out.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Valley of Hope?

Liverpool have not conceded a goal in their last five games; Liverpool have won their last two games 4-0. Charlton lost their last game 5-1. What hope do we have of getting a result tomorrow? Probably none, but any result against the top teams - Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, or Liverpool - is unexpected, especially this season.

It's up to us, the fans, skipper Luke Young (left) and the rest of the team, plus the coaching staff, to believe that we can get out of trouble. Tomorrow will not make or break our season - we don't really expect anything from this game, so why get upset if (when) we do lose. Sure, none of us want to see Charlton thrashed, humiliated, outplayed, embarassed even, although all of those are possibilities at The Valley Saturday lunchtime.

One positive this week was the return to the clunb of Mark Kinsella, in the Development Coach role - the third man everyone was getting excited about after Dowie went and Reed and Robson were promoted. If 1% of Kinsella's drive, passion, effort, stamina and skill run of on the team tomorrow, we will be a better side.

Against a Liverpool team really in form, the papers tell us that Stephen Gerrard has a personal score to settle against Les Reed. Stevie really dissed Les in his World Cup book, and the media have jumped on this. It seems that everyone is really having a go at Charlton this year and putting us down at every opportunity; maybe we should re-employ Curbishley's PR guru?

News also includes the fact that Reed and Robson have now signed contracts; I don't have much opinion on this as it's only time (management and directors, plus legal-folk) that would have prevented the autographs being given earlier. Any move for Pardew (for instance) would have undermined Reed hugely, and this is not what the Board want to do. I find it funny that fans are calling for Reed to "return to coaching, because that's what he's good at" when actually that is what his job is! He is not a manager; he is not a manager at our club. We have management to do that; Reed does the coaching. The anomaly is that because he has to stand up in front of the cameras and media, then he is perceived as a "manager".

Reed does pick the team though, and this is the side I think he will put out tomorrow barring injuries (to Reid and Kish) -

Thomas Myrhe
Luke Young
Talal El Karkouri
Souleymane Diawara
Hermann Hreidersson
Amady Faye
Radostin Kishishev (Hughes)
Andy Reid (Holland)
Dennis Rommedahl
Lloyd Sam
Darren Bent

Subs from Anderson, Sankofa, Fortune, Ashton, Hasselbaink, Bent (M), Thomas.

Scott Carson cannot play aginst his "own" side, so has to sit this one out, and I cannot see too many other changes from the Spurs game, with only Dennis coming in for Hughes, unless the midfield injury curse has struck again.

My one-to-watch tomorrow is once again Andy Reid. If he's fit (and the doubt is that he hasn't recovered from the calf injury he got at Spurs) then we must hope he can go on controlling games to the best of his ability from midfield. Without him, Charlton are a poorer team.

Pedro45's score forecast is not a pretty sight; I always used to say (when asked what the score would be against any of the "big" teams") that we would lose 4-0, and anything better would be a good result. I think many Charlton fans are thinking the same about the game tomorrow - 4-0 sounds about right, and so that's what my money is on. Anything better, and we will probably be grateful. Hopefully the team will have a different view and will repeat last seasons magnificent heroics and win once more against Liverpool.

Up the Addicks!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Message for James Nesbitt...

Jimmy boy, unless you are a Liverpool fan, I strongly suggest that you take the chance to go down that tunnel...

Low Five

Tottenham Hotspur 5
Charlton Athletic 1

It started with Amady Faye volleying just wide of goal from thirty yards, and finished with Faye clipping over from three yards; in between, oh dear, just not good enough.

The only plus point seems to be the goal (left) that Charlton "scored", when Andy Reid's great cross was turned into his own goal by Dawson, under pressure from Lloyd Sam. Luke Young followed up to make sure it had crossed the line, and Charlton went into half time with some small belief that they might yet get something out of the game.

Prior to that, Spurs had taken a two goal lead (Berbatov and Tainio) mid way through the half.

After half time, things just got worse. Kishishev went off with a calf injury, replaced by Rommedahl, and Spurs almost immedaitely got their third through an unchallenged Malbranque. Defoe blasted in the fourth soon after, and then Berbatov ran almost unchallenged from the half way line, playing a one-two off El Karkouri, before slotting the ball home for number five.

After that, Spurs relaxed, Charlton recovered a little, and the game petered out. Sadly, Andy Reid went off injured too (hamstring), but that gave Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink a return from injury run out for twenty minutes.

My own opinion is that, my one-to-watch, Scott Carson could have done better to have stopped at least three of the shots (2, 4, and 5). He was not the only player to have played poorly though - the whole defence went AWOL at times, Faye seems to have lost the defensive discipline he started with at the beginning of the season, Hughes was, well, just Bryan Hughes, Dazza is so low on confidence, and subs Hasselbaink and Rommedahl just do not get involved enough when the chips are down.

Minor plus points were another decent run out for Lloyd Sam; some good play by Kish before he went off, and great effort by Reid who ran the game for the first half, before his injury.

The result obviously looks bad - heavy defeats are not something that we are used to at The Valley, and only two compare in recent memory: 5-0 at Upton Park on Boxing Day a few years back, and the 6-1 home trouncing by Leeds around a season later. On both occasions, the team bounced back, but then again, they proabably didn't have to play Liverpool in the next game...

Yes it is embarrassing to be an Addick at the moment, but harking back to history, getting thrashed 7-0 at Brighton, 5-1 at home to Rotherham, and 4-0 at Walsall are all games that I have witnessed and had to move on from.

Us oldies are not unused to Charlton being in a relegation scrap; maybe that's why this blog is a little more pessimistic than some others. There will be no quick fixes, but over the next twenty games or so, we have to haul our team above just two other clubs (provided Watford stay below us...). I don't care who they are, but I do have the belief that we can still do that. We will definitely have setbacks like yesterday, possibly even worse ones, and maybe next week too. But did we really think we would get anything from these games? Nearly all the blog score forecasts had us down for a comprehensive defeat, even though I'm sure we all hoped to be proved wrong. What we do need to is pick up points at Middlesboro, and then against Fulham either side of Xmas. Two wins there would see us back in the mix quickly, and then it would just be a case of maintaining our position.

It's a marathon, not a sprint, this Premiership; I just hope we have something left in the tank for the new year.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Jol-ly Time of Year

Charlton's next game in this roller coaster of a season is away at White Hart Lane tomorrow, when they take on Spurs.

The game also sees two ex-Spurs players return to North London as key parts of the Charlton team - Luke Young and Andy Reid.

Skipper Young (left) has had a consistent season so far, but that level of play seems to be substantially down on previous recent seasons. Calls have been made for Young to be stripped of the captaincy, as he appears less vocal than many want him to be; he isn't the in-your-face win-at-all-costs loudmouth like John Terry (or Hermann Hreidersson), but does he have to be? How much can a captain influence play on the pitch each week? Sure, we want and need a leader, and Young won the captaincy by being a prime example of how a limited player can become very important through outright consistency, at a high level, week in, week out. Luke needs to raise his game to that of his profile (opening shops etc), and then we will see Charlton start to win more games again.

The opposite could be true of Reid. Our little Irishman has been getting better and better since his switch this summer. Spurs really didn't get the best out of him, playing him wide left, when he is much more use playing centrally (as he did at Forest). Two goals in the last three games, and plenty of recent man-of-the-match awards have boosted Reid's standing, and that as his waistline reduces should see him shine once more tomorrow.

Our esteemed leader - the other Reed, Les (left) - is unlikely to make many changes from the team that beat Blackburn on Tuesday, although it is doubtful Traore will be fit so soon after leavng the pitch with a hamstring strain. The only question is whether he plays Lloyd Sam from the start, or opts for the bigger, more experienced Marcus Bent. I think that New York Addick probably has it right this week in his preview, when saying that as Spurs are a generally big side, the better option could be to play Big Bent from the outset. Lloyd shouldn't be disappointed though, as I'm sure he will get his chance later in the game, and he could play a big part in matches either side of Xmas.

This is the team I expect Les to pick -

Scott Carson
Like Young
Talal el Karkouri
Souleymane Diawara
Hermann Hreidersson
Amady Faye
Radostin Kishishev
Bryan Hughes
Andy Reid
Marcus Bent
Darren Bent

Subs - probably Myrhe, Fortune, Holland, Rommedahl, Sam, with Ambrose, Sankofa, and Ashton also travelling.

My one-to-watch tomorrow is going to be between Carson and Dazza; Little Benty is due a goal or two, and does quite like playing against Spurs, having scored twice against them last season. A score from him and it would really start to look as if Charlton will be on the rise over coming weeks. However, the one I'm going to want to see a big game from is Scott Carson, who, with Charlton's defence still looking less than watertight, will need to be at the top of his game to keep out the Spurs forwards, and particularly Robbie Keane.

Pedro45's score prediction almost came true on Tuesday, but I was very happy when the Elk scored! This match I think is one that Charlton will be more than happy to take anything from, and I don't think they will - I predict a 3-0 defeat. I expect it to be better than recent matches though, and hope to see some extended effort from the team. I just think that Spurs are getting it right about now, and a few of their players will be too good for some of ours (especially in midfield).

I hope I'm wrong though, as a point will be good, and a win would be great!

Come on you reds!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Cutting It Fine!

Charlton Athletic 1 Blackburn Rovers 0

Wow! Doesn't it feel good to be a Charlton supporter today - exultant after an injury time winner, off the foot of the Premiership table, and able to smile at the effort our team put in once more.

I would also like to thank all of the fans who went to the game last night for creating an excellent atmosphere, and supporting the players throughout the match. As mentioned on another blog, the roar of expectation that went up when the injury time board was shown indicating two minutes to play was a huge filip to the team, and showed just how much the fans wanted the team to win.

There just didn't seem to be any fall guys out there for Charlton; all the animosity was directed at the opposition - Robbie Savage, Tugay, Lucas Neill, Emerton, and Henchoz all got plenty of stick from around my seat.

And this fed back onto our team, including Lloyd Sam who did well; a reasonable full debut. Not the great match that TV implied he had, but better than some first starts in recent times. If Lloyd had longer studs (he slipped over a lot...), a little more luck (when the ball bobbled from Dazza's cross and he skied it over the bar), and ref Chris Foy had agreed with 23,000 others (plus TV opinion) and given a penalty when Neill fouled him, then we would be raving. He also played up front which was a slight surprise, and didn't Dazza look grateful to have a strike partner?!?

Bryan Hughes and Radostin Kishishev also came into the team in a three man central midfield, part of a 4-3-1-2 formation.

All played their part; the defence was solid - well, more solid than it has been, and looked good once Traore had been replaced by Diawara. The big man from Senegal certainly impresssed my guest who was seeing him for the first time. The midfield had bite, effort, and guile (Andy Reid excellent on the ball again). And finally up front we had options and threat. Dazza nearly got onto several through balls, and when he did in the second half, he brought two good saves from Freidel.

The goal just didn't seem to want to come though. Hreidersson headed over a corner, Reid shot at the keeper, as did Hughes at least twice. Kish almost scored a beauty in the first half, beating Freidel but painfully, the post too.

And so to injury time. Spurred on by the noisy crowd, the ball was played up to Marcus Bent (on as a sub for a tired Sam). He ran at Henchoz who blocked him deliberately. After the booking, Reid and El Karkouri weighed up the free kick options. It had to be Reid - right side, perfect for curling it in with his left. It seemed the whole Blackburn team thought the same, as our Moroccan moved forward and, for once, instead of blasting it, curled it around the wall and into the bottom corner.

The crowd erupted with one of the biggest cheers snce we moved back to The Valley fourteen years ago.

On TV, I was able to see the utter joy that flowed out from those on and off the pitch - all the subs had huge smiles on their faces too! Maybe the team spirit that is perceived as missing is starting to come back (now they don't have to fight each other in training...).

The win moves Charlton above Watford, and much closer to other teams in relegation danger. A win on Saturday (not that I am getting caried away or expect it) could take Charlton out of the bottom three, and not many of us thought that possible a week ago.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Reid All About It

There are big games, and big games. This one - versus Blackburn - is a big game that isn't. No it isn't a big game against a big team, but it is a very big game for the Addicks, as they come to one of the last chances they have of getting themselves out of trouble at the foot of the Premiership table.

Quite frankly, Charlton are in a mess. I don't want trawl over the history since early May when Curbs decided that fifteen years was time enough, but since then a few decisions have been made that were not very good.

I also think that a few decent decisions have been made - signing Andy Reid (left) being one of them!

But now is the time to start making consistently good decisions; ones that will decide the division that Charlton play in next season.

First, the crowd need to decide if they are going to back the team, or sledge them. Sure, a few of the team are lightweight, possibly money-grabbing, too old or slow, not good enough, annoyed, don't want to be here, good-time Charlies (OK, most of them!). But some are not - some play with passion, pride, a will to win, desire, skill, and instinct. The basic instinct when you are down and taking a pummeling is to fight. Charlton need players like that, and fans too! Players will get tackled, miss passes or shots, lose posession, but the key is, if they are trying, to support them, not blast them with swearing that half of them won't understand! Groans they will hear, and encouragement too - let's all try to make as much noise of the right sort and see what effect it has.

Secondly, Les Reed is a good, possibly very good coach. Charlton are very lucky to have him. We all need to back him, as our board have done. We have all seen the signs over recent seasons that all is not well; Les will not get us instant fixes, but could be the man to turn the corner at the club, and get us back to attractive winning football.

Les in turn needs to be strong; we only see the man in front of the cameras, not on the training pitch where he is at his best. Les has already made some key decisions in my mind - Seeya Hughesie (Curbs and Dowie wouldn't do that...); Ta ra Kish! Hello Lloyd Sam! It would not surprise me in the least if one or two other so-called experienced pro's were on their last chances in the Valley saloon - Hreidersson, Rommedahl, Ambrose, and Marcus Bent are the obvious examples of players who have been at Charlton for a while and yet are by no means shoe-ins any longer. You could add to that the names of Young, El Karkouri, Holland, Kishishev and Fortune as under pressure and possibly on their way out of their club too. Unless these senior players start to stand up and be counted - get their tackles in and create/score goals - then I think Les may have no choice but to try others in their place.

Look at the defence for instance - on the right side, we have Young, Sankofa, El Karkouri, Fortune, Sorondo and Kishishev. On the left we can play Hreidersson, Gibbs, Traore, Diawara, Ashton, and you could even count (sorry, had to get it in...) Grant Basey! The options are there for Les to make changes if he wants, and the incumbent players should be made aware of that. There can be no resting on laurels at The Valley! Oh, and a goal from a defender wouldn't go amiss.

The midfield and front and less well stocked, and it is the midfield that has let the club down this season. Sure, Faye is probably better at breaking up play and heading than Kish, but he cannot pass as well. Holland has a better engine than Hughes, and much more experience than Sam, but he has never been the same since his knee went a couple of years back, even though he is playing his best football since Parker was at the club. Reid is great going forward, but maybe does not have the vision that Murphy had, and he has still to learn how to utilise Rommedahl and Bent's pace in the way that Spud could. Reid is also the only midfield scorer, having hit two in the last two games; anyone else want a bit of jubilation? Easy, get your shots on target!

Up front, Dazza is desperate for some breaks, and the odd-decent pass; if he did up and leave in January, who could really blame him - the service he has had this season has been appalling. JFH and Big Benty are not exactly setting the Premiership alight either, and Lisbie is injured again (good or bad, you decide?) leaving the options woefully short.

So basically, the decisions that Reed has to make are whether to stick with tried and trusted; stick with experience over youth; stick with non-tacklers over battlers; stick with 4-5-1 or 4-4-2. We fans dream of making decisions like this (nearly every day), but Les mate, you've got to make your mark now. It is time to make this Les Reed's Charlton side. Dowie is forgotten, and Curb's is history.

So to the Blackburn game - as I've rambled a bit, I'll keep this bit short. This is the team I'd like Les to give their chance -

Scott Carson
Luke Young
Talal El Karkouri
Souleymane Daiwara
Djimi Traore
Amady Faye
Matt Holland
Andy Reid
Dennis Rommedahl
Lloyd Sam
Darren Bent

Subs from anyone mentioned above and then some.

My one-to-watch is yet again going to be Andy Reid; he is the one with the passion, desire, and skill to haul Charlton up the table (if Robbie Savage doesn't kick him to bits beforehand). Give Reidy the ball, and if he gets hacked, get in there boys and stuff 'em up. Amady - be the enforcer!

Pedro45's score forecast is a 0-0 draw; we aren't scoring many, and neither are they. We have Dazza and Reidy, they have McCarthy and Nonde. Defensively both sides may have too much, and too much to lose. An early goal could set things up nicely, but I am not sure either team has it in them.

As supporters, we need to encourage the lads. If we can do that, then maybe, just maybe, we will drag ourselves slowly up the table by winning a few points. The Valley, fourteen years to the day after we came home, would be a good place to start.

Up the Addicks!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Going Down the Wrong Lane

Sheffield United 2 Charlton Athletic 1

This one hurt. As a Charlton fan for many years, you get used to losing games; even to late winners. But when it happens in a very important match, it really hurts.

Charlton were unchanged from last weeks draw with Everton, and after an early bombardment, took the lead with a break away goal started and finished by my one-to-watch Andy Reid. Reid led the charge from midfield and fed Darren Ambrose, whose shot was palmed away, and Reid swept in the rebound.

Sadly, the aerial onslaught did not stop, and it became increasingly evident that Charlton were lucky to survive, as they just seemed unable to cope with the balls being pumped into the area. Carson flapped at a few, so decided to stay on his line; defenders seemed more intent on looking for the second ball than challenging for the first; and the Addicks were lucky that poor finishing meant they went in at half-time still in front.

I guess as a fan it would have been nice if Charlton could have consolidated at half time, happy to settle with what they had, combat or certainly limit the high balls coming into the area in the second half, hope for another goal on the counter attack, and keep more possession, but it wasn't to be. Time after time in the second forty five minutes, Charlton put themselves straight back under pressure, with practically every clearance ending up with (one time Charlton target) Phil Jagielka. Rommedahl and Ambrose saw little ball, and didn't make much effort in seeking it out. Darren Bent had two centre halves to contend with and was totally anonymous.

Eventually one of the set plays had to take its toll. Charlton have struggled with defending set pieces all season, and from the umpteenth corner that United had, Morgan headed in almost unchallenged. It was no less than the Sheffield team deserved, having continued to miss a host of chances.

Les Reed tried to change things straight away, bringing on Marcus Bent and removing Rommedahl, and that did give some support to Dazza; in fact, a close offside decision went against him when he finished superbly off the post, but it didn't take long for the seige to start again. Kishishev came on for Ambrose, as Reed seemed to settle for the draw with fifteen minutes to go, but long throws, corners and free kicks continued to get thrown into the Charlton penalty area.

With two minutes left on the clock, a throw was cleared to the edge of the area and Gillespie smashed home the volley unchallenged. A great shot yes, but no challenge came his way, and another Untied player could also have put the shot in such was the Charlton marking.

Lloyd Sam came on in injury time, but probably didn't touch the ball, and the game finished with Charlton heads - both players, fans, and management - drooped disconsolately.

The win takes United out of the bottom three and, more worrying for Charlton, seven points clear of the Addicks who remain bottom.

There are must win games, and must win games. Tuesday nights game against Blackburn (who beat Fulham 2-0 today) is now a vital must, must, must win game for Charlton. Anything less will see a widening gap become a bit too wide for our liking, and realistically, too wide to bridge over the next twenty-odd games.

I've always been positive about Charlton's chances of surviving/avoiding relegation, but this result, and failure to win on Tuesday night, may just make this blog consider the worst, and face up to the reality that the team currently just isn't good enough to compete in Europe's best league.

Shevchenko - The Missing Link

Has anyone else noticed the similarity between Andriy Shevchenko (left) and Jonatan Johansson?

Charlton's record cap winner has been on a long slide down the scoring charts for a number of seasons now, and maybe it's because he has been moonlighting as a Ukrainian goal-poacher in recent seasons.

Addicks fans know how good JJ was when he first joined the club, when he topped the Valley scoring. But then, just as Shevchenko was making a name for himself at Dynamo Kiev, JJ seemed to get injured quite a lot, and lose that scoring knack.

Sheva rose to prominence just as JJ was losing form - could it have been that they are one and the same player, and the tired performances from JJ were a result of him turning out for Kiev, jumping on the BA flight, and appearing for the Addicks later that day too?

Later, after he signed for AC Milan, Sheva could not get the flights to make the Charlton starting eleven, so he had to make do with midweek league and cup games at The Valley (when not clashing with Champions league fixtures).

Certainly, the form shown by Sheva recently has been similar to that of JJ (left) at Charlton in the last couple of years. Once a feared striker who played through the middle; now a forlorn figure out on the wing taking the odd long shot at goal. It was only once released by Charlton that JJ/Sheva could sign for Chelsea, as the two London clubs matches clashed regularly on weekends.

Could it be then that if Sheva is off-loaded by Chelsea in the January sales back to Italy or elsewhere that JJ will make a sudden re-emergence back in the UK?

We shall see...

Inside Lane

Charlton travel to Bramall Lane today in search of points that will take them off the bottom of the Premiership table. Sheffield United will be no easy targets, with their confidence boosted by a late winner in their midweek game at Watford. The Addicks will have the benefit of a free week that hopefully Head Coach Les Reed will have put to good use on the training pitch, and also the time allowed a few of the niggly injuries to clear up.

This is the side I think Reed will name today -

Scott Carson
Luke Young
Talal El Karkouri
Hermann Hreidersson
Djimi Traore
Amady Faye
Matt Holland
Andy Reid
Dennis Rommedahl
Marcus Bent
Darren Bent

Subs from Myrhe, Anderson, Ashton, Diawara, Fortune, Kishishev, Ambrose, Sam.

I think Reed will want to try to maintain the 4-5-1 formation, which may mean Marcus Bent playing wide, but the flexibility is there should Charlton need two up front. Big Benty will be playing against one of his former clubs, as he did when coming on as a sub last week against Everton, and this always seems to give him the impetus he sometimes lacks. The only alternative is Darren Ambrose, who he hasn't really been too involved recently, unless Lloyd Sam is unleashed at last or Bryan Hughes is considered renovated (please no!).

Souleymane Diawara is fit again we hear, but after a good show by the defence last week, I cannot see him dropping El Karkouri (above) as might have been expected earlier in the season, due to his consistent good form over recent weeks.

The rest of the team picks itself really, barring unforeseen injuries.

Charlton will be looking to Andy Reid (left) to be the play maker again; now his fitness has improved, Charlton fans are really seeing how good a player he is. Now he has the goal to get him off the mark for the Addicks, he is my one-to-watch today.

Pedro45's score forecast is a 2-1 win, a particularly upbeat prediction from this website; I do hope I'm right, as the year and two months gap since the last away victory is becoming a real pain to put up with. The Blades don't score many, and don't let many in, but neither do Charlton (usually), so I think it could be tight with Rommedahl and Dazza creating havoc to the ponderous United rearguard.

Up the Addicks!

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